Tag Archives: Inclusion

Evictions begin as government starts grabbing your homes

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It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.

You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.

Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago – saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.

This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.

The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years. Sadly the head of the household recently had a stroke and has been forced to move into a care home. In the past, the tenancy would have been handed down to the next generation of the family – two sons, one of whom has a family of his own. The other is a friend of mine, of excellent character. By day he works very hard at his job; after hours, he is a member of a popular local band (along with his brother, as it happens). They are what this government would call “strivers”.

But they are being penalised because they have been told to vacate the only home they have had. Not only that, they are being asked to stump up a small fortune in backdated rent (as their father has been paying for his care, not the house) and another small fortune to dispose of carpets they cannot take with them, which the council does not want.

When I spoke to my friend yesterday, he told me that the council simply does not want him or his brother as tenants because “it is easier to process a large family who are on benefits”. I queried this, and it seems likely that this is to do with the forthcoming Universal Credit system, and with the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (also known as the Pickles Poll Tax); it is easier to handle Universal Credit and council tax claims if the authorities have foreknowledge of a household’s income.

We both agreed that there is a serious drawback to this thinking.

Large families do not want to move into vacant social accommodation because they fear what the government – national and local – will do to them if their circumstances change. Children grow up; adults move out – and that will make them vulnerable to the Bedroom Tax. Suddenly their benefits won’t be enough to pay the rent and they, in turn, will be turfed out onto the streets. They know it is a trap; they will try to avoid it.

My friend agreed. “That house is going to stay empty for a very long time,” he said.

This is madness. Here are two people who are perfectly willing and able to pay the council’s rent, on time, for as long as they need the property but, because of the Welfare Reform Act and the Localism Act, the council is treating them abominably and the house will end up providing no income at all.

If you think that’s bad, though, just wait until you learn about my other friend!

He is an older gentleman who has been disabled for many years. He had been living in a small, two-bedroomed house that had been adapted to accommodate his needs. We know precisely how much these adaptations cost to install at current rates: £5,000.

I believe he needed the extra bedroom to accommodate carer needs but I could be mistaken.

Along came the Bedroom Tax and suddenly he did not have enough income to cover the cost of living there. The council (or social landlord, I have to admit I’m not sure) sent him an eviction notice. He appealed.

Guess what? His appeal was set to be decided after the date he was ordered to be out of his home.

So he had to go. He was lucky enough to find another place to live, and all the equipment he needs to accommodate his disability moved along with him – at a cost of £5,000.

Then he received the judgement on his appeal: He was exempt from paying the Bedroom Tax; he should never have been forced to move.

Is this British justice?

This country was once the envy of the world because we were far more enlightened than any other nation in our policies of social justice and inclusion. Not any more! Now we are regressing into a new dark age in which the squalid Shylocks infesting Westminster manipulate local authorities into performing grubby property grabs for them.

Is the ‘Bulldog Spirit’ that made us famous for standing our ground during the Blitz now being turned to hounding the poor out of their homes?

Are you willing to put up with this?

In Iceland, they marched to their Parliament and set up camp outside until the government gave up and agreed to the demands of the people. Here, an unmandated government rides roughshod over democracy while you sit at home watching The X Factor, Coronation Street and the Winter Olympics.

Nothing will change until you change it – but you know this already. The simple fact is that, if you are reading this article, you probably sympathise with the sentiments it is expressing and are already active in opposing the heinous crimes being committed against our people.

There are not enough of you. People who need to read these words are being allowed to live in ignorance, lulled into inactivity by the right-wing mass media.

It’s time to put an end to that. There can be no excuse for ignorance and inaction while people are being made homeless. Think of someone you know who needs to be shown the truth and make them read this article. Ask them what they think of it and explain the facts of what is happening around them.

Then tell them to pass it on to someone they know.

Spread the word – don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t sit on your thumbs and expect somebody else to do your bit for you. If you don’t act, why should anybody else? What’s the point of me writing these articles if you can’t be bothered to do anything about it? Are you going to wait until someone tells you they want your home?

Then it will be too late.

I’ll know if you succeed because it will be reflected in the number of times this article is viewed. I’ll report the results of this experiment next week.

Don’t let yourself down.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Victims tell how they were unfairly knocked off sickness benefits

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‘Have 230,000 sick and disabled people been wrongly knocked off-benefit and forgotten?’ That was the question posed on this blog just two days ago, based on an analysis of statistics from the ONS and CESI. Without more input from the Department for Work and Pensions it is impossible to answer the question – but two former claimants have come forward with stories that support the allegation.

“I’m one of them!” wrote Steven Dix on Twitter. “My wife and I are now £400 a month worse off, with IDS’ ‘help’!”

He explained: “When I was on Incapacity Benefit it was indefinitely – then came ESA.”

Mr Dix was put on contribution-based ESA totalling £97 per week – but this only lasts for a year. After that, “I was told that my wife, who is on minimum wage at Asda, earns too much for me to get income-related ESA.

“We were told we could only apply for Working Tax Credits, but guess what? Because I got ESA in the tax year 2013/14 we don’t get anything until tax year 2014/15 when we will have to apply again, and we can’t have anything backdated until then!

“We married on September 3, 2013; we did not qualify for housing benefit between then and December 25, 2013 and so now have £400 rent arrears to make up, and I have to find another £68 for overpayment of housing benefit (the bedroom tax) to pay back for that period too!”

Mr Dix stated that he had been made to feel like a criminal. “My crimes? I’m disabled and got married!

“The government keep on about how they’re helping working taxpayers and how they are helping married couples like my wife and I, but I really am wondering how much worse things would be if we weren’t getting David Cameron’s ‘help’!

“Now of course I have no independant income, I’m unable to work, and only have £168 DLA at the lower rate per month, half of which goes to Wonga.com!”

So this victim clearly deserves sickness benefit because he is unable to work, but has been denied it because of the arbitrary 365-day limit on contribution-based ESA; his low-paid wife can’t claim Working Tax Credits because of a legal loophole and so they have had to take money from a payday loan firm – the one that famously contributes to Conservative Party funds.

How convenient for Wonga.com and the Tories. How devastating for Mr Dix and his wife.

On Facebook, a person going by the moniker Nomine Deus tells us: “I was kicked off-benefit (long term Incapacity) in 2012.

“I am not eligable for Jobseekers [Allowance] or Income Support as my wife works and is paid just over the qualifying amount for one and works too many hours for the other. I live out in the sticks and would be forced to travel to sign on at my own expense and then put onto workfare etc, again at my own expense (or rather my wifes expense). I am forced, therefore, not to sign on at all.

“We are already in fuel poverty and struggling financially. I am still suffering my original condition. I believe there must be many like myself out there.”

These are only two stories of people who have fallen through the holes Iain Duncan Smith has created in what used to be the safety net of social security.

Who can doubt that there are many, many more?

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Have 230,000 sick and disabled people been wrongly knocked off-benefit and forgotten?

Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits: This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Incapacity Benefit (the red dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

Claimants for inactive benefits and the economically inactive – inactivity benefits: This chart shows claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, and Incapacity Benefit (the red dots), compared with survey figures for the economically inactive owing to long-term sickness.

After all the government’s efforts to kick people off long-term sickness benefits, the number of claimants has risen – but statistics seem unable to account for nearly a quarter of a million people.

Even though Atos and now other private assessors are working hard to meet increased reassessment targets for Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance, the government is paying out more money on these benefits – to around two million claimants.

This is a surprise for an administration that has been merrily throwing people off-benefit since it came into office, but it raises an important question: What has happened to those people?

In its January labour market report, the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion said; “The number of the economically inactive who were long-term sick or disabled rose by 40,000… as did the benefit figure. The rise in the benefit figures shows ‘early estimates’ of benefit numbers.

“The rise in both ESA/IB claimants and in the comparable survey measure is a surprise given continued IB reassessment. The impact of IB reassessment on the total claimant numbers appears to be negligible as yet, although there remains some way to go with assessments and (particularly) appeals. This factor will need to be watched closely.”

You see, the expectation was for the figure to be much lower. We know from the DWP itself that benefit reassessments have been taking place at a rate of 11,000 per week, and the assessors have been finding 68 per cent of claimants ‘fit for work’.

This means that in the last year, the work capability assessment will have found 389,000 people ‘fit for work’ and kicked them off-benefit. Around 40 per cent of them – 155,600 – are likely to have appealed, in which case they will still be on the system.

So the number of claimants would have dropped to 1,806,600. We now have 2 million claimants. Some of them will be brand new; some of them may be re-claims. We don’t know how many.

The fraud rate is 0.7 per cent. Assuming all those people have given up pretending to be sick/disabled, that means 1,634 people correctly had their benefits cut off, while 231,766 were treated unfairly by the assessors

This suggests that a number between 191,766 and 231,766 people have been wrongly knocked off the books. Where are they?

Is there a fault in this logic? Or is this figure the reason the Coalition government, Department for Work and Pensions, and Iain Duncan Smith in particular will not release the mortality figures, showing the number of people who have died within six weeks of assessment/reassessment?

We don’t have enough information to know for sure, but the implications are terrifying.

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